The New York-based CPJ used 15 benchmarks to evaluate countries’ press freedom levels, including the blocking of websites, restrictions on electronic recording, absence of privately owned or independent media and restrictions on journalists’ movements.
In the CPJ’s report, the most censored place goes to Eritrea. North Korea and Syria followed closely. Eritrea, a nation in the Horn of Africa, is governed by an iron hand by President Isaias Afewerki. There, “no foreign reporters are granted access … and all domestic media are controlled by the government,” the report stated. The government expelled the last foreign correspondent in 2007.
Eritrea’s ambassador to the African Union, Girma Asmerson, pointed out that Eritrea banned private media in 2001 because they had become “propaganda mouthpieces for external foreign influences,” he said, according to Bloomberg. The country’s media is now focused on “development agenda and poverty alleviation.”
“Every time [a journalist] had to write a story, they arrange for interview subjects and tell you specific angles you have to write on. We usually wrote lots about the president so that he’s always in the limelight,” an exiled Eritrean journalist told the CPJ.
Harsh press environments in North Korea, Syria and Iran are almost the same. Governments put restrictions on information that have huge influence on geopolitical and nuclear stability, the report explained. “North Korea has tested nuclear weapons, Iran is believed to be working to develop them and Syria reportedly has had nuclear ambitions,” The Associated Pres reported
“Journalists are seen as a threat and often pay a high price for their reporting,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement accompanying the report. “But because the Internet and trade have made information global, domestic censorship affects people everywhere.”
Other nations on the list are: Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Belarus.
China was close to being included in the list, as it “plays a particularly harmful role worldwide” because it exports censorship techniques, the report stated.
Press freedom is impeded by an increase in online censorship, particularly in those countries where CPJ has seen Arab uprisings and particularly Syria and in Iran,
Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the CPJ, told Journalism.co.uk